A Plain & Simple Thanksgiving

Amish fiction, Amish Holidays Comments: 10

DSCN4918It’s amazing to me how popular Amish books are. I’m often asked “why” and the best answer I have is that many of us are a bit overwhelmed. We like the simplicity of the Amish life–the lack of traffic jams, ringing phones, blaring televisions, and mega-shopping. We like the idea that life can/could be simpler.

So what about Thanksgiving? Do the Amish celebrate it? YES, they do. Is there celebration different than ours? Probably. Here are a few differences. Remember, my observations are from visiting with Amish in Indiana, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Oklahoma. You may have experienced something different.

  1. The Amish do join with other family members to celebrate Thanksgiving.
  2. They don’t travel far though–only family members who live nearby get together. In general, Amish don’t “go home” for the holidays . . . but of course they do stay in touch via letters, etc.
  3. They don’t purchase a lot of pre-cooked items.
  4. They usually have a devotional time on the morning of Thanksgiving.
  5. Everyone contributes to the meal–one person doesn’t try to do it all.
  6. Afterwards, they play games or visit (remember–there are no televisions in the home).
  7. There are lots of folks helping with the clean-up after the meal.

Kind of simple. Right? Yeah, I like that too. I hope that this holiday season, you are able to find the plain and simple joys that come from your family, friends and faith.



Giving Thanks

inspiration Comments: 7

Cozy autumnHave you seen the Facebook Thanksgiving Challenge that’s going around? I think it’s an awesome thing. Folks are challenged to be grateful each day of November and post a short “status update” of thanksgiving each day.

Whether you’re doing this challenge or not . . .

Whether you use social media or not . . .

I’m going to challenge you to go beyond that.  Years ago I took a writing course that was supposed to help us to set and meet goals. The first thing the teacher (Margie Lawson) encouraged us to do was start a journal. (You’re groaning if you’re not a “journal-er” and you’re clapping your hands if you are.) It’s much simpler than you think.

Buy a 79 cent spiral notebook. I prefer the smaller ones rather than the full size pages.  A full size page is WAY too big. Each morning when you get up, take the time to write the date, how many hours you slept, and five things you’re grateful for. If you want, under that you can put your goals for the day. Writing how much you’re sleeping helps you to see if you’re running behind and need to go to bed early! But the key is the gratitude. It takes 5-10 minutes and it will focus your day in ways that will surprise you.

This isn’t a new idea. Is it? This didn’t all start in 1621 at Plymouth. It didn’t even start in 1863 when President Lincoln made it an official holiday. Nope, I’m pretty sure it started with King David.

“Give thanks to the lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.” ~Psalm 118:29

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify Him with thanksgiving.” ~Psalm 69:30

Open your Bible to the Psalms, or read them here. Over and again, David reminds us to give thanks. So this year, instead of a November challenge, how about we make a life-long challenge to be grateful — truly grateful — for all that God has done. How about it. Are you up to the challenge?



Thanksgiving Grace

Amish Holidays, Amish view, Christian living

Three Cute Thanksgiving and Harvest vertical BannersToday I wanted to write to you about GRACE and how we can extend it to our families. I don’t mean the kind of grace like you say before a meal, though those are good too! I’m talking about offering something special to your family this holiday season.

Wikipedia defines grace as the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it.” That’s an awesome definition. I’ve always thought of grace as “unmerited favor.” You don’t earn it. You receive it. And you can offer it to others.

Have you ever noticed that some people get tense if you even mention the holidays? I’ve seen people groan, roll their eyes, change the subject, even reach for more chocolate. I’ve been guilty of a few of those things! I think there are a lot of reasons for this, but the primary one is that life is complicated. Right? Kids grow up, move to different places, have various obligations. Not to mention the pressure to have the “perfect meal” or “perfect day” is incredible.

So how about we offer each other GRACE instead? We can say and believe that “it’s okay.” Can’t make it for dinner? Not a problem–because we know you love us. Have other obligations? Not a problem! Burned the turkey? Heat up a pizza!!!!

Part of the reason we respect the Amish is they are able to keep these things in perspective. This holiday season, we could step back, take a deep breath and thank the Lord for our blessings, and then we perhaps we can find the courage to offer one another GRACE. And if you really enjoy making the traditional dinner, and are worried your family can’t come, then ask folks at your church. Be a special blessing to someone else.



ps – the winner of the cancer wall hanging and book was RUTH SMITH. All of your comments really touched my heart. A big thank you to everyone who entered, and stay tuned for more give-aways!



October Hobbies

Amish fiction, Quilting

It seems that my hobbies change in October. As the evenings grow colder, I want to work on quilting or crocheting–anything that puts a warm blanket in my lap!

As some of you know, I’m a NEW quilter. So I’m not very skilled yet, and that’s okay. I realize it’s a learning process, and I’m very much enjoying it. The above blanket is something I put together for Project Linus. I loved the Kitty fabric, and I wanted to try brightening it up with some rick-rack and a nice satin boarder. It’s not my finest work, but I think a child will enjoy it. And that’s sort of the Amish way. Don’t you think? To make things which are a gift for others–not perfect gifts, but heartfelt gifts. It’s a simple way to say that we care.

Not everyone enjoys crafts. I understand that! October evenings are also a good time to curl up with a book or watch an old movie. Maybe put on that coat and go for a twilight walk.

How do you spend your October evenings?


ps – there’s still time to enter last week’s drawing. I’ll randomly pull a name next Wednesday and contact the winner. Then I’ll post it here on our next Saturday post. Details for the drawing are here.

October Give-away

Amish fiction, Contest

A Give-away for YOU

It’s been a while since we’ve had a give-away. What was I thinking? Let’s make up for it today. Since it’s Breast Cancer Awareness month, I thought I’d give away this little wall hanging and your choice of books. The wall hanging is done in pretty pinks and has a nice HOPE border at the top. It’s only 19″ x 14″, but it would be nice to put on a table top or hang on the wall.

All you have to do to be entered is comment below. Maybe you could offer encouragement to those who are battling cancer. If you’d like to be entered TWICE, hit the re-tweet button at the bottom, share on Facebook or Pinterest, or email a friend. Then leave a 2nd comment that you’ve done so, and you’ll be entered twice!

Thanks so much. We’ll randomly draw a winner in a week.



ps – My latest release HIDDEN is still available in ebook for only $3.99 and print for $10. CLICK HERE for more information.

Fall Colors

Amish fiction, Texas

Colors in a Texas Fall

Well I’m cheating a little bit. These are pictures from the Texas coast–so I don’t know how “fall” they are, but we went last week and had a wonderful time. I was researching a book titled, “Josua’s Mission,” and I’m super excited about it. Yes, it’s Amish and it’s a romance, but it’s also a book that will highlight how the Amish participate in mission work across the United States and beyond.

I had some good news last week. BOTH of my publishers was new proposals from me. So whether you prefer Amish mystery, Amish romance, or romantic suspense – I’d love to hear what YOU would like to read about. Any good story ideas that you want to share with me? I am ALL ears.

Here’s hoping that you are having a wonderful October.



ps – Hidden now has 23 five star reviews on Amazon. The ebook is still $3.99 and the print book is $9.64 on Amazon. If you have a moment, check it out!



Amish fiction, Amish view

Fall in Amish CountryBlueGate, Shisphewana IN

I thought for the month of October we’d talk about FALL in Amish country. We don’t have a lot of fall in Texas. We have hot, hotter, less hot. That’s pretty much it. So when I’m able to visit Amish country, especially in the fall, it’s a real treat. 

I took this photo outside the Bluegate Restaurant in Shipshewana, IN. Have you been there? Though they still had bright flowers, you can see the trees are beginning to turn colors.

It does seem for the Amish that fall is a busy time (harvest and auctions and school), but it’s also a time when things begin to slow down. Once the crops are in, they set about preparing for winter. So what do you think? Where’s your favorite fall spot?




VC Book Spotlight, HIDDEN

romantic suspense

hidden webHidden, A Christian Romantic Suspense–VC Book Spotlight

This is the final post on my books, and I hope you’ve enjoyed them. Next week we’ll dive into Fall in Amish Country, then in November we’ll have a few posts on gratitude and December will focus on Faith, Family and the Holidays.

I am so happy to share with you the release of my first romantic suspense, Hidden. This is not an Amish book! I adore writing Amish stories, but it was nice to step away for a minute and write about something different. No worries–I’ll have many more Amish releases in the next two years.

Hidden is the story of Dana Jacobs—who SEEMS to have it all together, but in fact is held back in her personal and spiritual life by events in her past. Faith is something she stopped having as a small child. Now Ben Marshall is in her life—a steady, calming, faithful presence, and she doesn’t know what to do with him. When they become deeply involved in a case that threatens both their town and their lives, Dana must decide if she’s going to let her past define her. She must decide whether she’s going to live in fear, or live by faith. It’s a fun, suspenseful story that focuses on God’s grace and love for us.

I was offered a contract for this book by two different publishers, but I decided to publish it on my own. This a new venture for me! You can order it in print from Amazon or from me directly, and you can order it in ebook form (for just $3.99) from any vendor. All links are on my HIDDEN page. I hope you’ll give this book a try, as I believe you’ll enjoy Dana and Ben’s story, and hopefully God will speak to you through the message in the book.



VC Book Spotlight, Shipshe

Amish fiction, Shipshewana Series

Shipshewana Amish Mystery Series, VC Book Spotlight

shipshe3 newslLast week we talked about my newest mystery series, set in Middlebury, Indiana. Today I’d like to revisit my first mystery series, which was set in Shipshewana.

The first book in this series was Falling to Pieces, and while I was writing it I visited Shipshe for the first time. The town is a real mix of Amish and Englisch who live there. In a lot of ways, this changed the way I thought about the Amish because my first experience was of a community working well together.

The second book in the series is A Perfect Square. Funny story–I wrote this during the last year that I was a high school/college teacher. I teased my students about it, because the story opens with Deborah finding a teenage girl’s body in a pond. My kids thought that was a hoot.

Book three is Material Witness, and it’s really the story of Aaron, a special needs child. As the parent of a handicapped child, I’m fascinated with the way Amish deal with these situations.

These books are all available individually in print, and if you’re an ebook reader you can purchase them in a bundle now for only $10.99. I’m hoping B&N will also carry this bundled set. When they do, I will post the link on my webpage.

Have you ever been to Shipshewana?



VC Book Spotlight, Cozies

Amish fiction, Amish Village Mystery series

Amish village collageAmish Village Mystery Series, VC Book Spotlight

I’m glad you’re enjoying the spotlights I’m doing this month on my various series. Some readers have joined me in the last year and they don’t know about the earlier series. If you’ve read them all, I appreciate your patience and I hope you’ll share this blog with friends.

Murder Simply Brewed was the first book in my Amish Village Mystery series and it released last spring. Book 2, Murder Tightly Knit is available for pre-order and will release in December. The final installment in this series, Murder Freshly Baked, will release next summer. All 3 books are set in Middlebury, Indiana.

So why AMISH and MURDER? First of all, these are cozy mysteries. Though a murder does take place, they are essentially stories about a small community and the way folks interact. There’s usually an amateur sleuth and a sidekick and together they get into trouble before they solve a mystery. Sound simple enough? They’re a lot of fun to write, but more importantly I think they’re a great way to highlight the fact that God works in our lives through all situations.

I actually started writing cozy Amish mysteries because Zondervan/Harper Collins called me and asked me to! Isn’t that fun? This series was picked up by Sam’s Club, so it was fun to see the book there.

What do you think? Have you tried a cozy mystery?